by: Tom Cochrane

There was heartbreak for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and his legion of French fans on Day 10, the fifth seed failing to convert any of his 4 match points in a narrow 5 set defeat to top seed Novak Djokovic.

Day 10 Recap

Things didn’t look promising for Tsonga when he managed just one game in the opening set against the world number one. But the flamboyant Frenchman came alive thereafter, taking the second and third sets 7-5 as the patriotic crowd found its collective voice. In the twelfth game of the fourth set, Tsonga had multiple chances to win the set and complete a stunning upset, but Djokovic managed to get out of jail on each occasion and send the set to a tiebreaker. The top seed edged out Tsonga 8 points to 6 in the tiebreaker, then cruised by a deflated Tsonga in the final set to complete his escape act.

Djokovic will face Roger Federer in the semi-finals after the Swiss maestro executed a similar escape act against Juan Martin Del Potro. The third set trailed Del Potro by 2 sets to love, as poor shot selection and a litany of unforced errors weighed down Federer. But the veteran turned around his game in spectacular fashion, losing just 2 games as he blitzed his way through the third and fourth sets to tie the match and send it to a decider. By that stage, Del Potro was starting to fatigue, and Federer was able to control the points and record a hard-fought victory.

In the women’s quarter-finals on Day 10, Aussie Sam Stosur moved through to her third French Open semi-final in 4 years, defeating Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 6-1. The sixth seed has yet to drop a set in the tournament, and secured an early break against Cibulkova, which she held on to in order to claim the opening set. Down 0-40 in her opening service game of the second set, Stosur fought back to win the game and from there wasn’t really troubled.

Stosur will face Sara Errani for a berth in Saturday’s final after the Italian took down the powerful German Angelique Kerber. Previously without a win in 28 career matches against top 10 opponents, Errani recorded her first win against a top 10 player to move through to her maiden Grand Slam semi-final. After taking the first set 6-3, Errani was twice forced to break Kerber when the tenth seed served for the second set. That led to a tiebreaker, which the ultra-consistent Errani won for the loss of just 2 points.

Matches of the Day – Day 11

1. Kaia Kanepi vs. Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova showed in her fourth round match against Klara Zakopalova that her serve is still by far the weakest part of her game. In windy conditions against Zakopalova, the Russian struggled to hold serve, so the conditions in Paris today will play a big part in the Russian’s quest to make back-to-back semi-finals in Paris.

Kanepi has played well in this tournament so far, her biggest win coming against former world number one Caroline Wozniacki. Kanepi is a hard-hitting baseliner but Sharapova has too much class and creativity for the Estonian, provided that the second seed doesn’t self-destruct. Sharapova in 2.

2. Nicolas Almagro vs. Rafael Nadal

Nicolas Almagro is an extremely good clay-court player on the ATP Tour; Rafael Nadal is the best clay-court player on the ATP Tour and probably the greatest clay-courter of all-time. In 2008 and 2010 Almagro and Nadal squared off in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. On both occasions, Nadal was the victor and went on to win the tournament.

Once again, I think Nadal will be too good for his countryman. Nadal has breezed through the opening rounds of the tournament, with his demolition job on Juan Monaco in the last round his most dominant performance of the tournament to date.

Almagro has also played well in Paris this year, but the reality is that Nadal does everything just that little bit better than Almagro – the second seed is more powerful, moves better around the court, has a better serve and is the better defender. Nadal has only a marginal edge in all of these categories, but it’s enough to get him over the line. Nadal in 4. 

3. Yaroslava Shvedova vs. Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova has moved through her section of the draw quietly but effectively, with a momentary lapse against the Russian Bratchikova the only blot on her copybook in the tournament to date.

Kvitova has been overlooked by many punters as a true contender for the title, given that the Czech isn’t at her strongest on clay, but the fourth seed is a tremendous player on any surface and has a decent chance of claiming the title given the upsets to date in the women’s tournament.

Qualifier and doubles expert Yaroslava Shvedova is far more talented than her current ranking suggests, the Kazakh having been hit with injuries in recent times. Shvedova recorded a fabulous win over defending champion Li Na in the round of 16, but I suspect she will struggle to back it up against Kvitova. Kvitova in 3.

4. David Ferrer vs. Andy Murray

Andy Murray once again made a slow start in his last match, dropping the opening set to Richard Gasquet, 6-1. The Scot gradually worked his way into the match as his back became less stiff and his baseline game warmed up. But the fourth seed can’t afford to be slow out of the blocks against David Ferrer, who is a terrific clay-courter and a formidable front-runner.

Whereas Murray has had to fight for wins against Nieminen and Gasquet, Ferrer has swept all before him in his run to the quarter-finals. Murray has more flair and creativity to his game, but Ferrer is terribly difficult to break down on the red dirt. At his best, I think Murray has the ability to defeat Ferrer on clay, but I don’t think the Scot is at his best at the moment. Ferrer in 5.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.


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